It must have been a strange and awful scene. The young man, for Nero was but twenty-two years old, poured into the ears their tumult of his agitation and alarm. White with fear, weak with dissipation, and tormented by the furies of a guilty conscience, the wretched youth looked from one to another of his aged ministers. A long and painful pause ensued. If they dissuaded him in vain from the crime which he meditated their lives would have been in danger; and perhaps they sincerely thought that things had gone so far that, unless Agrippina were anticipated, Nero would be destroyed. Seneca was the first to break that silence of anguish by inquiring of Burrus whether the soldiery could be entrusted to put her to death. His reply was that the praetorians would do nothing against a daughter of Germanicus and that Anicetus should accomplish what he had promised. Anicetus showed himself prompt to crime, and Nero thanked him in a rapture of gratitude. While the freedman Agerinus was delivering to Nero his mother’s message, Anicetus dropped a dagger at his feet, declared that he had caught him in the very act of attempting the Emperor’s assassination, and hurried off with a band of soldiers to punish Agrippina as the author of the crime.
The multitude meanwhile were roaming in wild excitement along the shore; their torches were seen glimmering in evident commotion about the scene of the calamity, where some were wading into the water in search of the body, and others were shouting incoherent questions and replies. At the rumour of Agrippina’s escape they rushed off in a body to her villa to express their congratulations, where they were dispersed by the soldiers of Anicetus, who had already token possession of it. Scattering or seizing the slaves who came in their way, and bursting their passage from door to door, they found the Empress in a dimly-lighted chamber, attended only by a single handmaid. “Dost thou too desert me?” exclaimed the wretched woman to her servant, as she rose to slip away. In silent determination the soldiers surrounded her couch, and Anicetus was the first to strike her with a stick. “Strike my womb,” she cried to him faintly, as he drew his sword, “for it bore Nero.” The blow of Anicetus was the signal for her immediate destruction: she was dispatched with many wounds, and was buried that night at Misenum on a common couch and with a mean funeral. Such an end, many years previously, this sister, and wife, and mother of emperors had anticipated and despised; for when the Chaldaeans had assured her that her son would become Emperor, and would murder her, she is said to have exclaimed, “Occidat dum imperet,” “Let him slay me if he but reign.”